Bill Black: Marriage and the Jobs Guarantee

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Yves here. Bill Black’s article is well timed as well as important. Tonight, the Wall Street Journal was flogging “Cheap Sex and the Decline of Marriage,” adapted from a new book, which argues that young men aren’t getting married because it’s so easy for them to get laid. Black takes on this  effort to try to present good old fashioned moralism as the remedy for deeper economic problems in his next column in this series, so let me have a mini-go at its first.

It does not appear to occur to author Mark Regnerus that young women might be the ones who aren’t so keen to get married, due among other things to the widely reported immaturity of young men. Moreover, there are now more women than men graduating from college and law schools than men. Women are acculturated to marrying up or at worst sideways, income-wise. Might another problem be a shortage of sufficiently-desirable partners?

The book’s findings are also at odds with trends that have been widely reported: more young people, particularly young men, being less keen about having casual sex; the number of sex partners among young people falling and the age when young people on average start having sex rising. Admittedly, some of this change has been attributed to smart phones degrading social skills to the point that it apparently makes young people less adept at flirting and seduction.

To give an idea of the caliber of this alleged research, this was the only argument presented to counter the notion that young people aren’t getting married because many aren’t making enough to set up households:

A May 2017 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, focusing on regions enriched by the fracking boom, found that increased wages in those places did nothing to boost marriage rates.

Help me. What do you think mining boom towns are like? Answer: they bring in a lot of men, from engineers (yes, petroleum engineers skew male) and oil industry workers like derrickhands. They do risky physical work and are paid well. But most of the men are transients, and aren’t looking to stay and marry local women. Moreover, the influx of men skews the gender ratio, putting the men who are interested in getting married at a disadvantage from a dating perspective (if you think men who want to get laid can’t fake romantic interest, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you).

Even though the book claims to be based on exhaustive work, all you need to do is have a gander through the underlying study to see it screams bias. As we’ve regularly reminded readers, survey instruments are very sensitive to the order and phrasing of questions.

The first section is about religion. Not exactly subtle about what the researchers think matters. And while generalizing from one’s social circle falls into the “data is not the plural of anecdote” fallacy, I consider my peer group to be stodgy, yet this study say the number of sex partners I know many of my friends (male and female) have had puts them at the far end of the spectrum of this study.

Put it another way: in the 1950s, before birth control, Kinsey found that the average man reported having had six sex partners and the average woman, three. This would seem to be impossible unless you have gay men having sex way way out of proportion to the general population (which as far as I can tell, they do, but even so, not enough to fully account for this difference), and/or men overstating and women understating their histories, and/or men and women having different ideas of what constitutes having had sex with someone else.

So what has this study found about our modern era where people are supposedly having way too much casual sex? On p. 23:

The median heterosexual man or woman (age 18 to 60) reports somewhere between four and six opposite sex partners in their lifetime.

This is in line with what Kinsey found in the stone ages before The Pill. So exactly where is all this casual sex that is leading to the handwringing? Either it’s not happening despite birth control (doubtful) or the sample for this study, despite its size, is crap.

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United. Jointly published with New Economic Perspectives

The University of Missouri – Kansas City recently hosted the first conference on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and a closely associated idea, a federally-backed job guarantee for everyone willing and able to work. On September 25, 2017, the New York Times published an article exemplifying one of the applications of the job guarantee that would provide a win-win that should unite anyone interested in strengthening the family. The title is “How Did Marriage Become a Mark of Privilege?” Claire Cain Miller authored the column, and her key takeaway are in these two passages.

Fewer Americans are marrying over all, and whether they do so is more tied to socioeconomic status than ever before. In recent years, marriage has sharply declined among people without college degrees, while staying steady among college graduates with higher incomes.

Americans across the income spectrum still highly value marriage, sociologists have found. But while it used to be a marker of adulthood, now it is something more wait to do until the other pieces of adulthood are in place — especially financial stability. For people with less education and lower earnings, that might never happen.

These facts establish an obvious policy that could unite the public. The combination of MMT full employment policies and the job guarantee is the best way to strengthen family financial stability. The United States, which has a sovereign currency, can do that. The European Union nations that lack a sovereign currency will frequently be unable to do so. Jobs, not simply income, are essential to many humans’ happiness and sense of self-worth. Unemployed American men, for example, do less housework than do employed American men. Businesses are deeply reluctant to hire the unemployed, particularly if they have been unemployed for any significant time. The cliché of males responding to unemployment through depression has considerable truth.

Miller’s article notes that there is an unproductive split between conservatives and progressives about how to strengthen families. Conservatives tend to claim that the problem is cultural. Progressives generally agree that culture is important but note that the surest and quickest way to make productive changes in culture is frequently economic. Progressives oppose conservatives’ punitive and authoritarian policies that purport to change culture and note that they have failed. Miller correctly notes that the economics and culture are closely interrelated.

Conservatives deeply resent safety net programs in which the recipients are able to work but decline to do so. The complementary steps to run a consistent full-employment program are to follow MMT principles with an employer-of-last-resort job guarantee program. The job guarantee does not merely guarantee that anyone willing and able to work in the government or non-profit sectors can do so; it finesses the disinclination of private sector employers to hire the unemployed. We can provide a full employment economy with rates of inflation so low that even (very conservative) central bankers consider desirable, not simply acceptable.

The job guarantee program would also allow us to close one the great perception gulfs between progressives and Trump’s supporters. Trumps supporters believe that disfavored minorities prefer not to work and live on the dole. Progressives believe the opposite. The jobs guarantee would provide the definitive test that could end any debate and replace perceptions with an easily observable reality. The job guarantee test has the potential to do what female employment in World War II did – destroy prejudiced myths that ‘everyone’ knew were true. It turned out that women could do a massive array of jobs and that they were interested in doing so.

The Themes of this Series of Columns

This column is the first of three related columns on the general topic of the conservatives’ culture wars in which the family is ground zero. I develop several themes. First, that their culture war is rests on false premises. There are win-wins available, particularly through the job guarantee and MMT that allow great progress in strengthening the family. Progressives would be delighted to work with conservatives to implement these winning strategies.

Second, the policies that the conservative culture warriors are pushing rest on bogus claims. They also fail.

Third, the policies that the conservative culture warriors are pushing are nasty. They represent authoritarian, dogmatic, and bigoted pathologies that have long disgraced America.

Fourth, the conservative culture warriors do not address most of the critical problems Americans and others face. They religiously ignore the cultural/ethical problems of conservative elites and the Republican Party and the harm that these cultural/ethical problems inflict on Americans and the peoples and creatures of the world. The culture warriors overwhelmingly support and assist Republicans implementing pathological policies arising from these cultural/ethical problems. Those pathological policies channel the most disgraceful American traditions.

Fifth, the conservative culture warriors religiously refuse to join progressives and others in embracing cultural values the conservatives purport to treasure even though there is an obvious potential for broad consensus on a broad range of cultural and ethical views and policies that represent the very best of American traditions. The conservative culture warriors are hypocrites who want a culture war that energizes the worst elements of their base even though they know that the result will be to degrade American values and practices and cause immense harm to the “other.”

Other Win-Wins We Can Implement to Strengthen Families

We could build on these win-wins by getting rid of federal subsidies to places that are not real colleges – the scores of fraudulent for-profit schools. Fraudulent for-profit schools do not provide the benefits to employment and marriage that real public and non-profit community colleges, colleges, and universities provide. This reform would also greatly reduce eventual losses due to student loan defaults.

Conservative culture warriors that run the Education Department are racing to prevent sanctions against these fraudulent schools. Other conservative culture warriors applaud this obscenity.

We could create another win-win by providing real sex education (rather than the sham of “just say no”) and provide ready access to contraceptives including the morning after pill to poorer women. All of these reforms reduce considerably births outside of wedlock. Conservative culture warriors in the Trump administration are trying to eliminate these successful programs – and the conservative culture warriors outside the administration are cheerleaders for the travesty.

A win-win policy that has been shown to be exceptionally effective is the provision for home visits by specially trained nurses to new moms who are most at risk of being overwhelmed. The nurses explain and demonstrate, for example, the importance of moms talking pervasively to their infants. The Trump administration’s culture warriors targeted the program for elimination because it is successful. Conservative culture warriors know the program works, but refuse to oppose their fellow warriors.

Even When the Culture Warriors Talk Economics They Get it Wrong

“Financial stability” is the key concept, one that “pro-marriage” cultural warriors and weak economists have repeatedly failed to comprehend. Their typical “analysis” goes like this – if poor women would only marry their boyfriends, they would have materially larger income and only modestly larger living household expenses. (Their analysis almost invariably purports to describe the marriage decisions of poorer, heterosexual women, so I address that context.) The simplistic idea is that adding the male’s income to that of the poor woman means that she and her children must be better off.  The only slightly less simplistic version of this claim is that married couples tend to have stronger economic results than do the unmarried. Both arguments ignore the most important and fundamental applicable principle of finance – risk. Fortunately, poor women apply a more sophisticated analysis to the question of marriage than do these economists.

Risk, as most poor women understand, is the key. It is not sufficient that the male, on the average day, would be a source of financial strength, particularly if the mother has children. If the male does not have stable income, creates a material risk of increased expenses, or both he is a threat to financial stability that can put the mom and her child at grave risk. One car accident while impaired or even tripping on the stairs while impaired and breaking a leg can put the household in a financial crisis. The typical working class household has under $400 in savings. Even if they have auto and medical insurance, the deductible plus the loss of work due to the injury or wrecking the auto can instantly hurl the household’s financial stability into a desperate crisis. If the male’s job is unstable with material periods of unemployment or underemployment the household is made more unstable. If the male becomes depressed when these episodes occur the financial and family instability increase greatly.

If the male has expensive tastes for non-essential goods or if he has a substance abuse problem, he makes the household more unstable financially and in terms of safety for mom and her kids. If the male is violent or hostile towards mom or her kids, or indifferent or unreliable in providing childcare he makes the household more dangerous and unstable.

It is impossible to “hold constant” for these factors in an empirical test. Heterosexual moms are in the best position to judge the strengths and frailties of potential male mates. If the man is interested in marrying her, and seems to the primitive economist to add to the household’s total wealth, and she does not want to marry him the logical inference is that she has a reason for her unwillingness. The types of risks I have explained are realistic examples of those reasons. In statistical jargon, they represent “unobserved differences” – unobserved by the researcher who cannot “hold constant” for them, but observed by the heterosexual women making the decisions whether to marry a particular man.

The job guarantee does not eliminate many of the risks I have described. It would improve job and income stability, particularly for working class males. That would be unambiguously good for men, women, the economy, and our culture. The ability to run a real world test that demonstrated that disfavored minorities do want to work could reduce bigotry and our cultural and political divisions.

In my second column in this series, I criticize Mark Regnerus’ false assertion that working class male employment stability is unrelated to women’s decisions whether to marry. Miller’s column provides a useful corrective.

In a working paper published in July, three economists studied how the decline in manufacturing jobs from 1990 to 2014, across industries and regions, “contributed to the rapid, simultaneous decline of traditional household structures.”

Labor market changes made men less marriageable, they concluded. There were fewer available men, because unemployment was associated with a rise in incarceration or mortality from drugs and alcohol. The men who were left were less desirable, because they lacked income and were more likely to drink to excess or use drugs.

Researchers found a corresponding increase in births to unmarried mothers. The decline in marriage was not offset by more couples living together.


Never-married adults cite financial instability as a major reason for being single, especially those who are low-income or under 30, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Most men feel it’s important for a husband to be a financial provider, especially men without college degrees, according to another new Pne ew survey.

Women, meanwhile, have learned from watching a generation of divorce that they need to be able to support themselves. And many working-class women aren’t interested in taking responsibility for a man without a job.

“They say, ‘If he’s not offering money or assets, why make it legal?’ ” said June Carbone, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and the author with Naomi Cahn of “Marriage Markets: How Inequality Is Remaking the American Family.”

(June Carbone is the inaugural holder of the Robina Chair in Law, Science and Technology at the University of Minnesota’s Law School. She is also my spouse.)


Carbone notes that marriages in which both couples have at least college degrees have vastly lower divorce rates. If you are in college and contemplating marriage after graduation do not assume that you are doomed to a high risk of divorce.


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  1. Larry

    What Yves states in the foreword and Black states in the article is so obvious as to be head slapping as to why other “experts” don’t see it. How can an economist or scholar argue that marriage would always be a virtue and not take into account decisions at the relationship level that Black nicely outlines here? Are these not the same so called “experts” touting a philosophy of markets being rational because of a series of individual choices within them? Obviously the decision to forgo marriage is a rational one.

    Perhaps I’m the one who is too naive and “experts” must double down on blaming the victim of policy so that they can continue dumping on victims with increasingly bad policy.

      1. savedbyirony

        “Hidden agenda”!!! Surely not Mark Regnerus! He of the fraudulent, Witherspoon Institute funded “Gay Parenting ‘Study'”.

    1. tony

      Ideologues always reach the same conclusion. You can have them make an argument, show them that the facts they had were wrong and showed the opposite, and their response is to reformulate the argument to reach the original conclusion.

  2. DF

    Another related issue is that a lot of these men have atrociously bad credit. I know at least one person who hasn’t married her baby-daddy because his credit is off-the-wall bad (he mostly uses prepaid debit cards to avoid taxes and back child support).

    1. Kurtismayfield

      And there is the second reason not to marry him.. avoiding child support is not exactly a good sign of reliability. I know a few anecdotes that work for cash because of such situations.

      1. Code Name D

        The child support system is a strong disinsentive against men to even have relatonsips. There are cases where men have been ordered to pay child support, even if its not their child, or having as much as 90% of their wages garnished. I know a man where his two boys have moved out of their mom’s and are now living on their own. One even being in he US Marine core – and he STILL has to pay child support.

        The current system is to easy to abuse. Incresng risk for men. There only real option these days is to no longer play the game.

        1. Counterpt

          This is exactly the point I am making below. The article and comment by Yves is written as if there is risk on only ONE side that needs to be “managed” when there is actually risk on both.

          If it is “ok” now to think of these matters in purely economic terms, why should men accept any risk either? Instead of “hiring” what amounts to a full time “sex/support” employee, why not simply contract for the services you need on an a la carte basis?

          Need someone to pretend to care about your problems? Go talk to a therapist at $100/hr.

          Need “affection” services? Go to a sex worker or a “cuddle salon”.

          Not only will you be a good capitalist, you’ll have reduced your risk and kept each relationship on an honest, purely transactional basis.


          1. sunny129

            Guess, that’s the reason for saying ‘ Why buy the COW when one get milk FREE’, (+my addition) or replace it with another, if one can afford to be a sugar daddy.

            Have a network of friends, relatives (nephew/niece/cousins++) for potential help or ‘bonding’ if you really want to! Reciprocate the same to them. Cannot be a one way street!

            Wonder why so many ‘old’ elderly have cats/dogs for stable relation/companionship?

          2. JTFaraday

            Yes, this brings up a good point. Probably it is not the moralist’s hypothesized loose and sloppy personal behavior that keeps people single so much as it is the transactional thinking that comes with not just a neoliberal economy but a society reconceived in neoliberal terms.

            This could easily continue under a job guarantee. As Sunny points out, it is the discretionary income of the wealthy that permits them to treat other people in such a manner.

  3. Darn

    Krugman had a nice turn of phrase a while back, something like, why do conservatives not consider that social breakdown isn’t causing unemployment, but that unemployment is causing social breakdown?

    I think we should consider the case for moving from a full employment economy with a welfare state to “free markets” would lead to greater “responsibility” to be falsified. Ppl can’t take up responsibilities without an income.

    1. Synoia

      In the gig economy, there is no stability of “work place.” It could be anywhere, and one has to migrate or travel to find the work.

      Few want to raise children when they might have to move cities at any time to continue to earn.

  4. Counterpt

    “Women are acculturated to marrying up or at worst sideways, income-wise. Might another problem be a shortage of sufficiently-desirable partners?”

    “They say, ‘If he’s not offering money or assets, why make it legal?’ ”

    So this is ok? Women are acculturated to be gold diggers and that’s that? Doesn’t this flirt with blaming the victim? Might this also not be a problem the in same way men are acculturated to prefer young, bone thin models?

    Perhaps there are a number of men who have seen this dynamic at work and are choosing to stay single since the only factor that seems to actually matter is our income level.

    Put another way, why would I want to marry someone who is most likely going to leave for greener pastures the moment my career takes a turn for the worse?

    1. jrs

      why make it legal anyway unless you plan to breed? It’s just a piece of paper, an old religious relic.

    2. Rojo

      I don’t think Yves was saying it was ok.

      Although actual gold-diggers are rare, I think there’s a cultural lag on the part of many women. They want to make their own money, as they should, but still want a man to make more.

      1. Counterpt

        Rare? C’mon rojo. The “young woman with crusty old rich guy” is so common it’s a cliché. See one Hefner, Hugh. You really think if he had been a local schoolteacher that those women would agree to put up with his nonsense?

        1. Rojo

          I would consider Playmates to be pretty rare. Most women I know do have more of an “income line” than most of my guy pals. But the straight-up rich-guy anglers are the minority.

        2. HotFlash

          The “young woman with crusty old rich guy” is so common it’s a cliché.

          Lessee, other cliches — ‘woman driver’ oh, that one doesn’t work anymore. Maybe ‘ditzy girl’. No, not that one. How about ‘dumb blonde’? OK, not that either. I forget, what were you trying to prove by citing ‘cliche’? And I’m still keeping this family-bloggable.

          1. Counterpt

            Rojo said “actual gold diggers are rare”. I cited the cliché about rich, older men with younger, “trophy” wives to denote how common the phenomenon is.

    3. HotFlash

      Whoa, whoa, whoa! If offspring are contemplated (by either party), then it is usual for the female to spend at least some time with the new little creature, and it may be medically necessary — childbirth is still not a piece of cake. As well, the current thought is that parent-child bonding or whatever socializes the little critters so they don’t become psychopaths — seems like a good idea to me.

      Now, in my country, Canada, we are guaranteed 17 weeks of maternal leave, plus 17 weeks of parental leave (both parents can take it) and adoptions are included (slightly less time, IIRC), so around 35+17 = 52 weeks off to care for your child. That’s not all paid, very little is, but you get your old job back, guaranteed. However, you’re still gonna need bucks, so it’s nice if there is one income coming in while the other parent, um, parents.

      US-ians, benighted country that you live in, do not have any such thing and any woman contemplating having children would be a poor mother indeed to not provide for her child This is not gold-digging, it’s just rational acting.

      1. Counterpt

        So it would also be “rational acting” for her to up and leave him the moment his career takes a dip as well then? After all he is having trouble providing and that’s all he’s there for so….off you go? Would you encourage a friend of yours to date and marry a woman who was 2 or 3 times divorced because her previous husbands had simply lost their jobs? I certainly wouldn’t.

        (I can cite you anecdote after anecdote of such people just from personal experience….of course most of that comes from my time in DC, which is a moral and ethical hellhole so perhaps my views are somewhat skewed. YMMV)

        Isn’t this a significant “economic risk” the male is assuming in such a case and is he not entitled to mitigate it? After all he’s subject to 18 years of child support and alimony payments.

        Why is similar “rational acting” on the part of men not also encouraged, if we’ve reduced it all to nothing but a cold economic calculus? Should he not then insist on an iron-clad prenup at minimum?

        1. HotFlash

          Possibly you hang with the wrong crowd? My spouse’s ex ditched him for a bigger income (govt contractor!), but she has to live with herself. We hear from our son (my step) that she is not happy… life has no guarantees.

          As to men, I definitely encourage rational acting whenever they can manage it. In fact, I don’t recommend marriage to anyone, although I am (wouldn’t do it again in any circumstance). It may be ‘traditional’ but I really don’t think it works very well on many levels. Divorce is even stupider, as it is practiced. And if you are only in a relationship for the quick cozy, getting hitched is definitely not rational.

          1. Counterpt

            You’ll get no argument for me there, lol. Why I no longer am in DC. And I completely agree with you as to the point about Canada. If I lived in a decent society, a lot of these financial pressures would be mitigated. Talking about relationships in these purely economic terms frankly creeps me out.

    4. Kathryn M Tominey

      In my family, my mother’s college-educated farmer father, had a mantra regarding women and professions. He said, every woman should have a profession so she’ll never have to marry to live. His daughters went to college to become teachers. His granddaughters went to college, his granddaughters, great grands, 2Gs on track.

      Any woman with children knows she may become the primary or sole breadwinner in her household. Unless she is a complete fool or exceedingly wealthy.

      Tribes affiliated with conservative religious practice should require their church to provide support for abandoned or abuse wives & children in their Churches. Let Graham, Osteen, et al pony up Support money, health insurance, etc for female adherents in poverty owing to following their advice regarding birth control & selection criteria for spouses.

    5. Yves Smith Post author

      Help me. Does it not occur to you that:

      1. Getting pregnant means career interruption and almost without exception has an impact on career earnings?

      2. When a woman has a baby, the reality is that she is responsible for it and the man has the option of how much of the work of childrearing he does.

      3. Single mothers (which includes single by divorce) have one in 7 odds of going bankrupt. Getting pregnant with the level of divorce risk we have now IMHO is nuts (although most women very much want to have kids).

      4. Are you out of your mind re women dumping men to trade up? Women have limited shelf lives. It’s men who trade in their wives for newer models.

      5. Being concerned about a man’s earning power is a result of 1 + 2 + 3. The true golddigger category is hot young women who marry MUCH older rich men. And that’s a decided minority.

      1. Counterpt

        1. I am well aware of it.

        2. Legally he is also financially responsible. Alimony and child support. Not saying there aren’t plenty of deadbeats out there, but once again if we are applying nothing but cold, market calculus to relationships, aren’t deadbeats to be praised? They successfully externalized the costs of the raising of their offspring! Hurrah for them!

        3. Men share the same financial risk. If I’m a single dad, I’m sure my chances of going bankrupt are also higher than a married dad, though I doubt as high as a single mom’s, not least of which due to #1.

        4. I see it all the time Yves. Even on less extreme levels. The 25 year old who marries the 42 year old partner at the law firm. Plenty of men her own age with stable employment she could have chosen. Or the 27 year old who marries the guy she could care less about, because he has a “good job”.

        Yes, men do it more often and are condemned for it (or should be). But I see women doing the same and no one bats an eye. Once again there seems to be a sexist double standard at work.

        Let me share an anecdote that might make the point clearer, I know of two cases just personally in similar situations. Both cases dad is the sole breadwinner. Kids are old enough that they are in school most all day and/or have relatives that are willing to provide childcare at no cost. Dad is facing the real possibility of losing his job through no fault of his own. In both cases Mom had a good, white collar job before having kids with marketable skills, though I’m sure would be negatively impacted by time out of labor force. In both cases Mom is refusing to even attempt to re-enter labor force to help out, on principle. He and he alone SHOULD be the sole breadwinner because….? And no, in neither case is she providing unpaid services in the form of housework. One “volunteers” at a friends business all day while the kids are in school, does no laundry, or cooking, or cleaning. Another does god knows what all day but also doesn’t cook and they have a paid housekeeper doing all the cleaning and laundry.

        The point being, yes, I understand women can’t afford to take on ANOTHER dependent along with a child in the form of a deadbeat husband. Totally understandable and not what I am advocating. But I object to just hand waving away this idea that women CANNOT or SHOULD NOT marry down. If it’s perfectly ok for the male doctor to marry the female school teacher, why is it not also ok for the female doctor to marry the male school teacher?

        I see plenty of deadbeat wives out there as well. And I certainly shudder to think about what kinds of people are going to come out of these cold, loveless households I see where the female has chosen her partner based SOLELY on his career prospectus.

        1. Counterpt

          Let me try this another way.

          It’s ok for a woman to be “concerned about a man’s earning power is a result of 1 + 2 + 3”.

          Is it not also ok for a man to be concerned about a woman’s earning power for the exact same reasons? Is he not allowed to mitigate those risks as well? Shouldn’t he limit himself to considering only those women who are willing and able to return to work and/or members of elite, in demand professions which have generous maternity leave policies and/or pay scales as “marriage material”?

          If I have a choice between a doctor and an office temp shouldn’t I always choose the doctor because she will have decent healthcare, maternity leave, and will be able to easily return to work in the event of an extended absence from the workforce and make significant dollars, most likely more in a year than the temp will make in 10, thus lessening the economic risk of the entire family unit?

          And if I dump the temp for the doctor for these reasons will this be judged as completely ok and “economically rational” or will I not, in fact, be considered a shallow prick who should just love the temp for “who she is not what she has”?


    The tactic is only going to sway a portion of the cultural warriors, because a lot of them are arguing in bad faith. Ignoring even the ethno-nationalist cultural warriors who aren’t interested in traditional religious values, many of the traditional values CW’s, especially those in positions of power, are just using that argument as apologetics for the economic failings of the system. Blame loose morals, homosexuality, and lack of religiousity for stagnant wages, opioid abuse, un- and under-employment, as to create a cover for the free market, shareholder value, wealth hoarding, etc. So it’s not enough to just make appeals to the true believers, but enlighten them to the fact that many of their so-called peers are wolves in sheeps’ clothing.

    1. HotFlash

      The tactic is only going to sway a portion of the cultural warriors, because a lot of them are arguing in bad faith.

      Agreed. But it might sway their listeners/followers, which would be more to the point that converting people who are arguing in bad faith.

  6. Andy S.

    The University of Missouri – Kansas City recently hosted the first conference on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and a closely associated idea, a federally-backed job guarantee for everyone willing and able to work.

    I’m going to flog this point one more time. It is a logical fallacy and, more to the point, a potential distraction to link MMT and progressive issues.

    Aside from the purely academic discussion, we most often see MMT raised to answer questions such as:

    How can we fund job guarantees, universal health care, better public education, etc.?

    Let me point out that MMT can also answer the question:

    How can we fund greater military adventurism, a more effective and intrusive surveillance state, pork projects and tax cuts for the politically favored?

    Progressive policy issues will not be advanced by a change in the accounting rules. Progressive policy issues will ultimately only be advanced by promoting and electing people who support progressive policy issues.

    MMT is both a fiscal model and a budgeting/planning tool. Like any tool, it can be used for good or for ill depending on who wields it

      1. Andy S.

        Yes, ugh, because it bears repeating as often as needed.

        MMT is not a self-evident truth. Despite its name, it does not even rise to the level of “theory.” A theory at least holds out the hope of being substantiated through a series of repeatable and controlled experiments. In the words of Karl Popper, MMT is not falsifiable.

        MMT is a model. It is a human construct, built upon another human construct, built upon another human construct… all the way down. It has no objective existence. MMT is no more true or false than capitalism, socialism, mercantilism, democracy, autocracy, theocracy or any other set of principles by which humans organize their societies and/or economies.

        As a model, its value is not measured by whether or not it is true. Its value is measured by whether it is useful. I won’t go into what makes a model useful except to say that many models of human organization throughout history have been quite useful – until they weren’t.

        The real question is, IMHO, useful to whom?

        MMT is often portrayed as a better model for fiscal management at the sovereign level when operating under a fiat currency regime. Again, better for whom? I would submit that from the perspective of current entrenched political and financial powers, the current fiscal model (I’ll call it the Balanced Budget Model or BBM) is working just fine. As Yves would say, all the commonly-cited negative effects of the current BBM are actually features, and not bugs.

        Back to one of my iron laws of human society: with very few exceptions, those who have power and/or wealth will do whatever is possible to maintain, if not increase, their personal power and wealth and by extension, the power and wealth of their family and/or tribe. It does not matter what model that society operates under. If the rules/policies/principles can be manipulated in such a way that the few can gain at the expense of the many, then that is what will happen.

        So back to MMT (or as I like to call it MMM). I am currently agnostic on whether MMT is a better model. I would love to see some real life data (i.e. Does any developed country currently operate its fiscal accounting according to MMT principles? If so, how’s it working out? If not, why not?). However, there seems to be a trend throughout these MMT discussions – at least as it applies to the American experience – that suggests that if we could only change the fiscal policy model, we would alter the social policy outcomes.

        I say B.S.

        The problem isn’t the model. The problem is the people who are wielding the model. The problem is that too much political, financial, and police/military power has been concentrated in too few hands. Power will protect and beget more power. Until that harsh reality is dealt with, the MMT debate is just so much whistling past the graveyard.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          MMT scholars have literally DECADES of academic work as well as empirical evidence backing their theory. Even more important. the Bank of England, Alan Greenspan, and Ben Bernanke, among others, have supported it in their comments on how monetary operations work (the Bank of England in detail, in not just reports but even in a guide written for a lay audience). They can track how monetary operations work by tracking the debiting and credits at the players involved. MMT is no more a theory than bookkeeping is.

          Do you think double-entry bookkeeping is merely a “theory” or a “model”? It’s a way of tracking the movement of funds through various entities and showing where the are before and after the transactions are credited and debited.

          The rules here are that readers argue in good faith. You simply assert that you don’t buy MMT and then make what amounts to an ad hominem attack.

          Those are both violations of our written Policies. If you can’t make an intellectually valid argument, and just sow doubt using the same agnotology techniques (a THIRD violation of our Policies) as deniers of the risks of climate change and tobacco did,and straw man MMT supporters (a FOURTH violation, no one said it was a “self-evident truth”) you are not welcome here.

          We are interested in reasoned, factually supported critiques. We are not interested in uninformed personal prejudice, even more so when you falsely act as if you occupy some sort of moral high ground.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      What you said.

      @ RabidGandhi — Agree with you too but take a look post and some of the comments from yesterday on the opener to the ongoing MMT Meeting.

  7. r2

    Maybe policy ought to consider universal healthcare at an affordable rate to the economy (ie less than 12% of GDP). Extending universal education to 16 years seems reasonable, too. BTW everyone ought to have basic training in real home economics and health even within a college prep program. Plumbing, electrical, construction, gardening, child rearing, cooking, etc. are real skills that contribute to health and well being.

  8. jsn

    Andy S.
    The UMKC scholars who have advocated the dissemination of information about the Chartalist aspects of the dollar system since the abandonment of Bretton Woods have done so from a position of principled progressivisim, they advocate the work they have done for progressive reasons.

    I agree entirely on the moral neutrality of tools, what can be used for good can be used for bad. The essential issue at play here is the Chartailist reality now described by these scholars to define the policy space available for progressive causes has been well understood by the MIC and FIRE sectors of the economy since 1971. They have profited grotesquely while pauperizing the nation under a deliberately propagandized attack on “government debt” for any purpose other than their own enrichment.

    Progressives won’t have material successes until progressive efforts are funded. The recognition that the US Govt can purchase whatever is for sale within the dollar denominated world system at no cost to itself simply by paying for it must be applied again to public goods rather than war mongering and financial speculation. This won’t happen until people understand what money is to a sovereign issuer.

    Yes, also any bastard who takes hold of the system, like our last half dozen presidents, can use it for Forever War and to guarantee rentier income. But the policy space for progressivism must be staked out according to the terms of the actual, existing, function monetary system through which policy will be deployed and through which, once understood, the incredible waste of the last 4 decades can be exposed.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      That’s why I said “jointly published”. Bill Black sends his articles often to me and the NEP person how handles the site at the same time. Usually they go up on NEP first and I credit NEP as “originally published”. If I don’t see it up at NEP and we publish it first, I credit it as “jointly published”. It most assuredly will be published at NEP in due course.

  9. Rojo

    “Put it another way: in the 1950s, before birth control, Kinsey found that the average man reported having had six sex partners and the average woman, three. This would seem to be impossible unless you have gay men having sex way way out of proportion to the general population (which as far as I can tell, they do, but even so, not enough to fully account for this difference), and/or men overstating and women understating their histories, and/or men and women having different ideas of what constitutes having had sex with someone else.”

    Could this also be due to prostitution? I mean if more than a few of the men have one or two pro’s in the their totals, but you don’t include prostitutes in your sampling (and how many of them are going to answer a survey), they you’d get a skew.

    1. Ken S

      Also, writing in the 1950s, Kinsey must have included huge numbers of men who had gone abroad during WWII. Their sex partners during that period presumably comprised British, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Australian, & other women who agreed to sex with American soldiers in the grey area between the casual and the mercenary. These women are not interviewed by Kinsey and do not contribute to the stats. Of course, American women never consorted with foreign soldiers in large numbers and had to make do with the smaller number of American men aged 18-25 who stayed on the continent during the war. So really, it should surprise us that contemporary Americans have the same sex habits as American GIs during wartime.

  10. MichaelSF

    In these modern times where one or both members of a couple may have experienced one or more divorce among their parents marriage may not be seen in quite as rosy a light as it once was. Most people are aware that “happily ever after” is not a sure thing so why be in a rush to enter the matrimonial state?

    As an anecdatum I’ll offer that my wife and I (both of us with divorced parents, university grads, career Federal civil service, no children nor desire for them) have been together just under 40 years but only married for the last 10. We were fine with our unmarried status, what prompted the change was when we started doing planning for our modest estate. The attorney we were seeing pointed out that the process would be greatly simplified if we just got married, and since we had no significant objections either way we did that.

    There was no big change in our lives other than having another anniversary to celebrate, mainly just some legal/financial benefits.

    So while there may be some correlation that can be drawn between marital status and economic status, I’m not sure how much causality can be established.

    1. sunny129

      ‘Happily ever after’ or at the end of a story – And they lived happily….blha blha

      is a FLAWED concept perpetuated for generations!

      The only perceptive attitude should be ‘ HAPPY INTERLUDES” nothing more or nothing less! Rest is a delusion in ANY relationship expecting a ‘bliss’ to last for ever

      A loving relationship becomes a ‘business’ relationship for practical matters and for stability and if lucky, a friendship later in life!

    2. jrs

      economic reasons may deal with many (who do also want kids), so it deals with those who want the 2.5 kids and a dog etc. but yes of course other people just don’t much believe in marriage and that’s all there is to it. And they see their parents divorced or if not divorced dysfunctional relationship, and religion has less influence in compelling marriage and so they just don’t.

      Besides some people might not find anyone they really would like to be married to (not that they might not have dates and lovers in the meantime but they might really fall short of marriage material in ways that have nothing to do with money) until they are 40 or 50+ and if the knot has been untied that long it starts to seem kind of pointless at that point, even when they plan to be together until death do us part (which also doesn’t seem all that much time at that point …)

  11. JBird4049

    I’m getting more socially conservative as I get older, and I am also getting more fed up with people using morality and personal responsibility to explain why our society is so very f**ked up.

    If there are no jobs, then there is no way to act like a full adult and acquire all the trappings one is supposed to have.

    If there were jobs especially ones that actually paid beyond starvation wages every social ill would decrease. Shootings, murders, illnesses, extremism, poverty, drug abuse and more would plunge in amount.

    I think that is the reason that they will not accept the change needed because it would mean that they are responsible for much suffering and that they are not as special as they thought. It’s so much easier for the current neoliberal Democrats to blame the deplorables, and the current “conservative” Republicans, to blame everyone else except themselves for our current misery.

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